MPs debate UN Special Rapporteur Report on extreme poverty and human rights
In November 2018, Employers For Childcare provided written evidence to the United Nations (UN) Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights in the UK and Northern Ireland. In our evidence, we highlighted how childcare plays a key role in lifting children and families out of poverty by tackling barriers to parental employment and helping to give children and young people the best start in life. It is essential that the childcare infrastructure can support parents to access and stay in work or training, and, once they are there, helps to ensure that work pays for those families and lifts them out of poverty.
On 7 January 2019 , MPs attended a parliamentary debate in the House of Commons on the findings of the interim UN Report.
Following his 12-day visit in November, the UN Special Rapporteur Professor Philip Alston said that Government policies are entrenching high levels of poverty and inflicting unnecessary misery in one of the richest countries in the world. He warned that levels of child poverty are “staggering” and said “for almost one in every two children to be poor in 21st century Britain is not just a disgrace, but a social calamity and an economic disaster, all rolled into one”.
MPs from various parties including Labour, the DUP and the SNP welcomed the interim Report and highlighted examples of people from within their constituencies who had had a negative experience of Universal Credit and those who are living in poverty, experiencing homelessness or turning to food banks.
Speaking on behalf of the Government Justin Tomlinson, a Minister from the Department for Work and Pensions, advised that the Government will be considering the report and its findings, and that some improvements have already been implemented. At the same time, the Minister challenged elements of the report and suggested that the good work of many frontline staff and volunteers involved in the roll out had not been recognised.
The UN Report also found the system of Universal Credit is being implemented in ways that can negatively impact claimants’ work prospects. The current system of Universal Credit childcare support was also criticised in a recent report by the Work and Pensions Select Committee.
Through our work with families, employers and childcare providers we have gathered experience, knowledge and evidence which informed our response to the Special Rapporteur. We are concerned that welfare changes, and a lack of adequate support to ensure that childcare is affordable and accessible for all, are having a significant, negative impact on families – and, as a result, on society and the economy more broadly.
The Special Rapporteur’s final report on his visit to the UK will be available in Spring 2019 and will be presented to the Human Rights Council in Geneva in June 2019. For further information on the UN Special Rapporteur visit please see: www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/Poverty/Pages/VisitUK516November.aspx